In a new report by Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization based in the U.S., light is being shed on that fact that Muslim Americans are severely overrepresented in U.S. prisons. While Muslims make up only 1% of the population in the country, they make up more than 9% of the average U.S. prison population. In some states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, this number rises to over 20% for Muslim Americans in jail.
This study also showed worrying results when it came to the treatment of Muslim American prisoners. This included dietary harassment cases, where many are denied non-meat or halal options for food, with one severe case in Alaska seeing prison guards only serving pork sandwiches during the month of Ramadan. Many accused this prison of essentially starving the Muslim inmates, who fasted during the day and were then unable to eat at night with their only option for food being pork sandwiches.
Muslim prisoners were also reported to be harassed in regards to observing religious holidays. While Christian holiday requests are consistently approved, in many cases requests to observe holidays like Eid were ignored by many prisons across the United States.
In regards to daily prayers, the study also found cases where Muslim inmates were denied the right to practice their right to pray. In some instances Muslim prisoners were not allowed to pray inside their individual cells, or were limited to only one religious service per week as punishment.
While many were shocked at the study’s findings, many others were not, claiming that Muslim Americans have long been targeted by both the state and police. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the scandal of NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program, which saw police infiltrating Muslim neighborhoods, mosques, and organizations, many Muslim Americans grew distrustful and disheartened by the motives of the U.S. criminal justice system.
With studies like this highlighting the abuse towards not only Muslim Americans but incarcerated Americans, it becomes painfully clear that the U.S. prison system is highly corrupt and abusive towards ethnic minorities.